Entry from December 11, 2008

How quickly the wretched of the world’s Communist hell-holes seem to learn the ways of the West! Or at least those of the Western media. In a profile in today’s Washington Post, Shin Dong-hyuk, the only man known to have escaped from the North Korean gulag of dictator Kim Jong Il and lived to tell the tale, tells it to Blaine Harden, who reveals that Shin, now living as a refugee in Seoul, South Korea, “does not want vengeance. He”ll settle for awareness. ‘Kim Jong Il is a gangster,’ he said. ‘If we kill him, we will be just like him.’”

Really? Just like him? This is a man, remember, whose brutality has resulted in the starvation of untold millions of his fellow-countrymen. Millions more have passed through or died in massive numbers in the gulags that Shin himself escaped from. Among Kim’s victims, the article tells us, were Shin’s mother and brother, whose execution by hanging for allegedly plotting to escape he was forced to watch. The article also tells us that “human rights groups estimate that 150,000 to 200,000 people are now being held in the North’s prison camps.” Now. Today. But for Kim Jong Il, they would not be there. And yet if we were to kill him in order to put a stop to his crimes, we ourselves would be equally guilty of them?

Who believes anything so preposterous? Not Shin Dong-hyuk, I venture. No, it takes an addle-pated media moralist to say anything quite so silly, and if Blaine Harden did not teach him to say it, somebody else did. “In recent weeks,” the article notes, “Shin has been watching old films of the Allied liberation of Nazi concentration camps, which included scenes of bulldozers unearthing corpses that Adolf Hitler”s collapsing Third Reich had tried to hide.” My guess is that he has also been listening, ill-advisedly, to somebody or other’s pacifistic commentary accompanying those films. Not that there are not also many other sources tainted with the media’s view of such matters, both here and in South Korea, from whom he could have learned it.

For the idea that by killing a vicious murderer like Kim Jong Il we become “just like him” is a truism for the liberal-utopian mindset but patent nonsense to anyone with the sort of deep and practical knowledge of the world and the world’s evils that Shin presumably has. Did we become like Hitler by killing him? For although he died by his own hand, he most certainly would have lived on and continued his career as a “gangster” without the encircling allied troops that must soon have caught and killed him, as they did other captured Nazi war criminals. This kind of lesson in the morally undifferentiated quality of “violence” is not the kind of thing you learn in a brutal North Korean camp for political prisoners, after you have seen your mother hanged in front of you.

Shin, who was tortured himself on account of the supposed escape plot, says that he “felt she deserved to die. . . I was full of anger for the torture that I went through. I still am angry at her.” That is believable in someone so degraded as a torture victim, someone for whom forgiveness is an alien concept. “In Camp No. 14, he said, to ask for forgiveness was ‘to beg not to be punished.’” That, too, sounds believable. But had Shin, in his right mind and full consciousness as a moral agent, suddenly been granted the power to have killed her executioners before they could kill her, would he have refused to exercise it on the grounds that it would have made him “just like” them? That is not believable.

But Shin, we are also told, has a living to make. He has written a book, Escape to the Outside World, and published it in Korean, though the indifference of so many South Koreans to the sufferings of the North has resulted in poor sales. There are no plans for an English translation, the article tells us. Yet, surely, the chances of there ever being such a translation must be materially improved by this article in a major American newspaper. Anyone clever enough to outwit his lynx-like North Korean captors must also be clever enough to have divined the benefits to be gained by adopting in the pages of The Washington Post the worldview of The Washington Post.


Discover more from James Bowman

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

Similar Posts